An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Sarasota County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Living shorelines: Natural defense to storms

TALLAHASSEE – Back in September, as Hurricane Sally battered Florida's panhandle with a deluge of rain and high winds, some locals said their living shorelines were their best defense against the area's storm surge.

Instead of a hardened seawall aimed at protecting shores from erosion, living shorelines use vegetation and other natural elements like oyster shells to stabilize estuarine coasts, bays, and tributaries.

Josh Poole built a living shoreline around his property in Gulf Breeze to stop erosion from his beach.

Despite seeing Hurricane Sally's waves break as high as 17 feet over his boathouse, he said his shoreline stayed strong.

"I literally thought that the beach would be gone," Poole maintained. "I thought that the rocks would be gone, I thought the oyster shells would all be just washed away. And I was absolutely amazed to find that a few of the late boulders on top had been moved around maybe a few feet, I mean, literally 18 inches."

Hurricane Sally was expected to strike Alabama and Mississippi. Instead, it made a slow crawl over land in Florida's Panhandle with 105-mile-per-hour winds, ripping roofs, snapping trees, and leaving thousands without power.

Poole hopes other homeowners will consider living shorelines as a means of erosion protection.

Coral reef restoration and other resilience projects win national funding

Florida has netted nearly $13 million in public-private grants from the National Coastal Resilience Fund for projects to restore or expand natural systems needed to protect coastlines from climate-induced sea-level rise and severe weather.

Florida’s projects include nearly $5 million granted to the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to rescue dying Florida coral reefs in the Florida Keys, as announced this week by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The funds will be matched by other sources, for a total of $10.3 million to plant elkhorn and staghorn corals at Eastern Dry Rocks, one of seven focus sites of NOAA’s “Mission: Iconic Reefs.” Various corals on the Great Florida Reef are dying off at alarming speed due to disease and pollution, according to marine scientists.

SWFWMD to hold virtual public workshop to update land use and management rules and processes

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will hold a virtual public workshop at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1, to discuss updates to the District’s land use and management rules and processes.

The purpose of this workshop is to update outdated rules and processes governing the use of District lands to create efficiencies. One of the major changes includes an annual limit on the number of nights campers can reserve per year, which will provide more fair opportunities for all users. Updating these rules and processes will also create greater consistency with other water management districts.

Members of the public may join the workshop via Microsoft Teams through this link: https://bit.ly/3eAg6ML. The Google Chrome browser is recommended for best compatibility with Microsoft Teams. For telephone-only participation, dial 1-888-585-9008 and when prompted enter the conference code ID: 346-054-201.

The updated land use rules are posted on the District’s website and the District will be accepting public comment from Nov. 24 to Dec. 7 at WaterMatters.org/LandUseRules.

Longboat Key moves forward with beach projects

The town of Longboat Key is working on four beach renourishment projects throughout the island.

Town staff and a coastal consultant are evaluating potential long-term impacts from Tropical Storm Eta before embarking on a yearslong plan to renourish the beaches.

“They’ve indicated that there are some areas of concern,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said. “When you do this assessment, you have to look to look at, not just which sand may have been impacted through the erosion from the storm, but they look at the entire beach profile, which goes out into the water to see where did that sand go?”

Harmer said in some cases sand might have moved on the island and in others, the sand might still be in the water.

“You can look at it a day or two after the storm, but you have to kind of take a little longer view to see where that sand may end up,” Harmer said.

Before Eta passed through, Longboat Key projects manager Charlie Mopps updated commissioners about four beach projects the town is working on: emergency dredging at Canal 1A, Greer Island spit management, beach renourishment, and the New Pass groin maintenance.

City of Sarasota looks at ways to prevent flooding during storms

SARASOTA, Fla. — It may not be the prettiest sight to see during your visit to Lido Beach, but the city’s renourishment project is meant for coastal protection.

The Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction project is one of the largest contemplated by the state. It will ultimately remove 710,000 cubic yards of sand from Big Pass and renourish about 1.56 miles of Lido Beach with it.

Some businesses endured flooding during Tropical Storm Eta. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been because of the added sand. But the goal is for properties not to go through that again after the next phase of Lido’s Beach Renourishment project is complete.

Even after having to stop work because of Eta, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it is still on target to finish the project on time. The crew should be off the beach by the end of the month or first week of December.

The Army Corps says it will begin the groin construction phase after that. “Groins” are man-made structures that are designed to hold sand in place and minimize beach erosion.

Humphris Park/South Jetty is closed

Humphris Park and the South Jetty walkway remain closed at this time, due to storm damage. Tarpon Center Dr. to the South Jetty is closed except for local traffic.

The Humphris Park parking lot area and the South Jetty walkway have both sustained significant erosion damage from Tropical Storm Eta. The park is not safe for public use or access, and the City asks that citizens avoid the area for their safety.

The City Public Works department will be assessing the damage and working on a restoration plan over the next week.

Mote announces 2nd round of red tide projects

Mote Marine Laboratory has announced that 16 partner-led projects have been selected for the Florida Red Tide Mitigation & Technology Development Initiative; they will investigate potential solutions to mitigate the impacts of Florida red tide

SARASOTA — Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is pleased to announce 16 projects have been selected for Year 2 of the Florida Red Tide Mitigation & Technology Development Initiative. The Initiative is led by Mote in partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The Florida Red Tide Mitigation & Technology Development Initiative was established and supported by state appropriations starting in June 2019. It focuses on uniting the best and brightest scientists from around the world in game-changing efforts to reduce impacts of Florida red tides, blooms of the toxin-producing algae species Karenia brevis.

The first round of projects was announced in early 2020, and included innovative projects such as deriving compounds from brewer’s spent grain, a byproduct from the beer brewing process, and testing its ability to control Florida red tide and its toxins. There are now more than 20 current research projects as part of the Initiative that includes 12 different partnering institutions and organizations. Read about all projects here. Additionally, Mote’s research facility infrastructure continues to expand in order to accommodate Initiative projects and provide safe spaces to test mitigation technologies and methods in a controlled setting.

“The projects selected for this round are made up of extremely diverse and innovative technologies, something that is really exciting for us at Mote and impactful for the Initiative,” said Mote President & CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby. “We know that there will be no one single silver bullet for mitigating red tide and its effects, so we are supporting developing technologies and methodologies that range from physical to chemical controls, early prevention to bloom treatment, projects led by universities, independent nonprofits like Mote, and for-profit businesses. We know that when we bring in the best and brightest from a variety of sectors we’re more likely to find solutions, and that’s what makes the Initiative such an exciting endeavor.”

Kevin Claridge, Associate Vice President for Sponsored Research and Coastal Policy Programs at Mote, said: “We’ve had tremendous success with our first round of partner projects, even despite the challenges that COVID-19 has presented. I think that success led to more wanting to be a part of this exciting Initiative. In total, the Initiative has received approximately 60 proposals from state, national, and international scientists – and we’re very pleased with the sixteen we’ve chosen for Year 2.”

A panel of scientists from eight different agencies and institutions reviewed the partner led grant proposals submitted, and the strongest proposals were presented to the Red Tide Initiative Technical Advisory Council on October 2, 2020. The sixteen Mote and partner-led projects will be awarded over $2.1 million in total grant support.

Learn more about the Red Tide Initiative and the full list of Mote and partner-led projects at redtidemtdi.org

Experts brainstorm ways to meet growth demands while protecting water supplies

The Nature Conservancy's Florida Chapter estimates roughly 1,000 people were moving to Florida every day before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The chapter's Executive Director Temperince Morgan says that rapid growth is stretching the state's water resources.

"Our current demands are exceeding our current supplies from traditional sources. We're seeing drawdowns and impacts to springs, lakes, and wetlands and other water bodies around the state," Morgan says.

Morgan says demand for freshwater will keep going up, especially in places like Central Florida, where more people are choosing to live.

"In recent years, public water supply demand has, for the first time in Florida history, begun to exceed agricultural demand. And the vast majority of that public water supply demand is for irrigation. So, to irrigate our lawns," Morgan says.

Her group is partnering with the University of Florida and a developer to study a new irrigation-free community—meaning a neighborhood that replaces grassy lawns with plants that are meant to live in Florida's specific climate without the need for frequent watering.

SWFWMD awards Splash! grants to Manatee and Sarasota County teachers

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) awarded $97,640.28 in grants to 43 educators within the District as part of the Splash! school grant program. The program provides up to $3,000 per school to enhance student knowledge of freshwater resources in grades K-12.

Splash! grants encourage hands-on student learning through STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities as well as engagement of the greater school community through awareness campaigns. Each school district allocates a portion of their annual youth education funding provided by the District to support the Splash! grants in their county.

The District awarded grants to the following schools/teachers in Manatee and Sarasota counties:

  • Bayshore High School - John Silva (Manatee)
  • Sarasota School of Arts and Sciences - Lauren Watson (Sarasota)
  • Robert E. Willis Elementary School - Julie Santello (Manatee)

Grants are available for freshwater resources field studies, water-conserving garden projects, community or school awareness campaigns and on-site workshops. Last year’s Splash! grants brought water resources education to 5,478 students throughout the District. For more information, please visit the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/SchoolGrants.

Check your irrigation timer as we ‘fall back’ to standard time

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) is reminding residents to check the timers on their irrigation system controllers this weekend, which is the end of daylight saving time.

Saturday night is when we will turn our clocks back one hour. The time change is also a good time to make sure irrigation system timers are set correctly to ensure that the systems operate consistently with year-round water conservation measures.

All 16 counties throughout the District’s boundaries are on year-round water conservation measures, with lawn watering limited to twice-per-week unless your city or county has a different schedule or stricter hours. Local governments maintaining once-per-week watering by local ordinance include Citrus, Hernando, Pasco and Sarasota counties and the City of Dunedin.

Know and follow your local watering restrictions, but don’t water just because it’s your day. Irrigate your lawn when it shows signs of stress from lack of water. Pay attention to signs of stressed grass:

  • Grass blades are folded in half lengthwise on at least one-third of your yard.
  • Grass blades appear blue-gray.
  • Grass blades do not spring back, leaving footprints on the lawn for several minutes after walking on it.

For additional information about water conservation, please visit the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/Conservation.

Mosquito-borne illness advisory issued

HEALTH OFFICIALS ISSUE MOSQUITO-BORNE ILLNESSES ADVISORY

The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County (DOH-Sarasota) today advised residents there has been an increase in mosquito-borne disease activity in areas of Sarasota County.

Three sentinel chickens have tested positive for West Nile virus infection. The risk of transmission to humans has increased. Sarasota County Mosquito Control and DOH- Sarasota continue surveillance and prevention efforts.

DOH- Sarasota reminds residents and visitors to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes and to take basic precautions to help limit exposure.

To protect yourself from mosquitoes, you should remember to “Drain and Cover”:

  • DRAIN standing water to stop mosquitoes from multiplying.
  • COVER skin with clothing or repellent.